2015-02-07

Publishing the other self...

Some self-published books, earlier today...
A while back, in Antiphon, Rosemary wrote this editorial:

When Rosemary writes everybody listens... er... reads!

But I wonder if she didn't go far enough?  I wonder whether the whole idea of "self publishing" being different from "publishing" isn't a historical artefact left over from the time that publishing was difficult.  I mean, I am publishing right now.  For the avoidance of doubt I mean this blog posting you are reading right now.  More than publishing, I am actually broadcasting, and it hasn't cost me anything beyond a little time and some facilities I already owned.

So...  you have a preponderance of channels in the World today.  Blogs and vlogs and tweats and forums and on-demand printing (which sooner or later will extend to on-demand creation of almost anything) and YouTube, LuLu, on-line magazines and so on and so on.

I say that the game has already changed, but that it will take another decade or so for people to work out what the change means.

Look at it this way, what is a traditional publisher?  It is:
  1. an input hopper, where manuscripts are thrown
  2. commissioning editors, who pick through them
  3. general editors, who ensure quality
  4. a manufacturing/shipping capability
  5. a publicity system
  6. something to collect the money
All of these parts can exist in other forms, and all of them can exist without the others...

If one takes YouTube as an example, it does all of those things except one, and it does every one of them in a completely different way...
  1. The hopper is vast and anybody can throw anything into it.
  2. YouTube uses crowd sourcing to run a recommendation system.  People effectively commission things themselves and technology permits this because it harnesses the power of other people doing the same sort of thing to cut out the part where you, personally, would have to watch every single crappy video on the system—other sharing, rating, liking, and even some play-list systems all help solve this problem, increasingly with deliberate intent by their originators.
  3. There is no equivalent to 3, but more later...
  4. On-demand delivery.
  5. Interestingly, 2 and 5 have become the same thing.  People "like" things, the system tells other people that things are "liked" and so it goes: a huge, Darwinian, positive feedback loop.  It is exactly the same thing that used to happen when your friend told you she liked Frassiter Crimps new book (which she bought because she saw it on the side of a bus), only automatic, faster and without any middle men.

    There are also other advertising channels in the system, you can link videos others, or from a blog entry; you could even pay Google AdWords to link your video to every Worldwide search for "Deterministic Quantum Nihilism..."
  6. Money, what money?  But seriously, people like YouTube make their money via advertising, not by charging for content...  and anyway their costs are (proportionately) far lower than those of a Victorian publishing house (CPU and storage are everything nowadays, and we're talking pence to hire them from Amazon, which is the expensive option for small-time operators...)



So, where does this leave us?

Well it leaves us where we have always been, with the general problem of intellectual hunger vs. Sturgeon's Law.

Or to put it another way: (i) people are starving for content which isn't crud, (ii) 90% of content is crud.

The traditional publishing and new systems are both just ways of scanning the input-hopper for non-crud, maybe fixing it up a bit, and making money from handing out copies of the results...




So where might we go next?  Note Ros quoting Gerry Cambridge:

In general, self-publishing is regarded with suspicion by many ‘traditional’ poets… The reason for this suspicion is straightforward: it can seem to bypass the standard expectation to get some sort of editorial consensus for a body of work. It implies that you weren’t able to get the work published by the usual channels, because almost any poet I know of would rather have a full collection, at least, published by a trade publisher than do it themselves

And note my point above:  YouTube has no equivalent of  general editors...

((Interestingly, Amazon CreateSpace and Lulu do have equivalents of this, they will sell you various services including editing...))

So what I am getting around to is.
  • Any one of us can publish his/her own book at any moment (and some of us do), BUT
  • self-published books are (rightly or wrongly) regarded with suspicion, SO
  • why aren't we editing one-another's?
Rosemary, John C. Nash and I successfully edited together a collection with Making Contact and we are fairly typical (OK, I'll admit to "advanced") amateur poets editing content from a (good but) fairly typical internet poetry board...

So it seems reasonable to suppose that other "gifted amateurs" could very effectively edit each other's work.

HOWEVER, the catch is in my second bullet-point, self-published books are regarded with suspicion, and although we would know these these new books were less suspicious, there would be no way for Joe on the street to know that.



SO, what I am suggesting is that there is room here for a movement, call it what you will—"International Poetry Standards Organisation" seems to be up for grabs :-)

e.g. if people were known to belong to a movement that was dedicated to quality, where people edited each other's work and where the editors were as well known for doing a good job as the authors...

((Since anybody could claim to be in the movement whether they were any good or not, you would probably have to back it with an (light-weight) organisation, that didn't let just anybody in, and which treated its name/symbol as a trademark, just to stop others from stealing it...))

Then wouldn't this provide the missing quality control component that a purely mass-market system like YouTube or Lulu lacks?

Just a thought...

Ian

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